This piece is to bring to your attention a notice published by the UGC, requesting universities and affiliated colleges to provide Intellectual Property Rights as a part of their elective system. Electives are courses which students can elect for, as opposed to mandatory courses.
The notice is signed by the UGC Secretary Jaspal S Sandhu and addressed to all vice chancellors.
I am reproducing the text of the notice for your convenience over here.
“ Creations of mind such as inventions, designs for industrial articles, literary, artistic work, symbols, names and images etc. are protected by lntellectual Property rights (lPR). Intellectual Property Rights (lPR) is normally of two types: Industrial Property Rights and Copyright. The importance of IPR was first recognized in Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Work (1886). lPRs should be protected to encourage the creator and also striking a balance between the innovators and public interest by creating an awareness where creativity can flourish.
Keeping in view the importance of IPR which recognizes the work of the creator, you are requested to devise, through academic council, inclusion of the IPR as a generic elective subject under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) in your esteemed university and the affiliated colleges.”
It is pertinent to note that IPR is not listed in the compulsory courses in the Bar Council Rules. So, even in law schools, IPR is not a compulsory subject. But universities can, at their discretion, choose to make it a mandatory course in addition to the compulsory courses listed in the Bar Council of India Rules.
One could see this letter as a direct extension of the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy.
Under Objective I: “IPR Awareness: Outreach and Promotion”
“1.5. Create suitable course materials for:
1.5.1. Educational institutions at all levels to emphasize the importance of IP rights;
1.5.2. Online and distance learning programs for all categories of users;
1.5.3. Including IPRs in school curriculum at appropriate level.”
Under Objective II: “Generation of IPRs”
“2.22. Introduce IPRs as part of academic curriculum in educational institutions, especially universities, law and technical institutions;”
Under Objective VII: “Human Capital Development”
“7.5. Strengthen existing and create new IPR cells and technology development and management units in NIDs, NIFTs, Agricultural Universities, Technology and Management Institutes and centres of skill development;”
Though it may be a case of reading too much into the text of the letter, it does come across as emphasizing the creation of “IP” (rather than just nurturing creativity) a bit more than may be optimal.
Prof. Basheer has touched upon this as a larger issue with the National IPR Policy here. In short, he explains how the policy is problematic because it envisages aggressive creation of protected IP as a tool to further creativity. He, inter alia, argues that the IP policy should be within the larger domain of innovation and not the other way around, as an improper IP regime can stilt creativity as well.
Therefore, one hopes that Universities don’t take this letter to presuppose that aggressive IP protection will necessarily spur creativity. While the end goal of creativity is certainly laudable, given the deficit of it in our educational institutions, if there is an assumption that enhanced IP rights are the only way to enhance innovation/creativity, this would surely be problematic.
In conclusion, as someone who is writing for raising awareness about Intellectual Property law, it is quite heartening to see a push for more awareness about IP, however, I do hope it remains within the larger innovation context. The concerns I have discussed above have been pre-existing concerns and a strict reading of the letter doesn’t necessarily point towards these concerns. The above discussion was only a word of caution regarding the existing IP discourse. While the contents of the letter are definitely positive, it remains to be seen to what extent and in what manner varsities will actually act upon the UGC prodding.
Image from here.